Well, I know I haven't been posting much at the moment. I usually work on my posts in the evening just before sleeping and the last week or two I've just been so tired I start falling asleep as I do it! My body has had a hard time getting over the virus I had, although the autoimmune rash I had is more or less gone - for now. We've also been a bit busy with house maintenance and my husband is about to leave for a 3.5 week trip to England, where he comes from and where we got married last year. So things have just been a bit tiring.
A week ago or so the hubby and I took Knightley on a trip to the inner city of Canberra for the first time. It was raining pretty heavily, but we tried to stay undercover when possible. We did end up getting pretty wet eventually though! Not good considering I was feeling pretty 'ordinary' as we Aussies like to say. (Ordinary = not great at all, with connotations of rough swearing Aussie blokes eg...' that's pretty bloody ordinary!' .... and just so you know, bloody doesn't count as swearing here. Right, that's your lesson in Aussie slang for today.....) Anyway, I had him in his vest which tells people not to touch him, as I want him to get used to not approaching people when in public, which he is getting quite good at. We wanted to go to a specific clothes store but it meant crossing a pretty major road that bisects the centre of Canberra's inner city - by far the most cars Knightley had seen together. He did absolutely fantastically though. I'd taken a big fat treat pouch so as he sat by my side waiting for the opportunity to cross I stuffed him with treats as cars wizzed by in front of him, splashing puddles of water around as they went. The idea of feeding when cars are going past, or for instance if we were in a quiet part of the city but stumbled upon a huge noisy truck, is to associate these things with good feelings, so when he seems them again he will feel good and certainly not scared. Fear is the number one reason assistance and guide dogs don't all make the grade. This method of association is called classical conditioning.
So we crossed the street and continued towards the store. When we got there we were all three of us a bit bedraggled at this stage, so the hubby asked if Knightley and I could come in, instead of waiting outside. He explained that Knightley was being socialised, and they were absolutely fine with it. It was great to get out of the bad weather, and Knightley was very well behaved. It was Knightley's first time in a clothes store - in fact it was only his second store ever after a book store at our local fresh food markets - so I took the opportunity to familiarise Knightley to it. We wove in and out of the racks of clothes, although I often had to ask for him to wait, then I would go ahead, then release him to follow me, as the passages between some of the racks were pretty small. It was good practice. I wonder if I could get that automatic, or get it on just one cue. It's interesting how doing just a little tiny bit of public access experience gives you so much to think about.
After that we walked back to cross the busy road, and it was still pouring. The cars zoomed past in front of Knightley's face, spraying water everywhere, and I really - like his amazing performance at the Sideshow Alley - couldn't believe he could be so sanguine in the face of such a new and rather intimidating experience. I have been careful to slowly ramp up the intensity of his experiences with cars, but still, I was impressed and so proud.
Nevertheless, he stayed in a down the whole time, and just shifted around once. So I was very happy with him, and we were able to eat our meal and pretty much forget that he was there. After finishing eating we walked around the busy shopping area, getting him exposure to the crowds that had come to get away from the rain and do some shopping. I noticed a small change in the way he was walking and guessed he needed to have a pee stop, and as soon as I found a place and gave him the command he went immediately. I *LOVE* having cues to empty him out, I think they are the most useful of everything I have taught him.
Then this last weekend I took Knightley to our local shopping mall. He has spent a good deal of time outside it, but has never gone in - I assumed he wouldn't be allowed. But I phoned up the information desk to ask nevertheless, and amazingly enough, they are fine with dogs in training coming in. However I am well aware that Knightley isn't particularly ready for public access training - that generally doesn't happen until assistance dogs are ready to do their jobs at around 12-14 months old. All I wanted from the experience was to introduce Knightley to shopping centres at a young age, and make it a positive experience. There are two entrances/exits quite close to each other, so I was able to go in through big glass sliding doors, have a short walk through the shops and people, past a group of children (one of whom screamed 'DOG!!!' but Knightley just looked around then ignored them), stop for about a minute with my husband, then left my husband to walk towards the other exit, and through the other glass sliding doors.
I praised Knightley to the skies and gave him several handfuls of treats once we were outside. A woman waiting outside smiled to see me giving him so much attention, and I explained it had been his first time inside, and he had been pretty much perfect. She was quite interested, asking questions about Knightley, so I got Knightley to meet her. He is getting better with not rolling over and asking for a tummy rub from everyone he meets, but it will take more work to make it perfect. He was very well mannered though, letting her touch him, but not trying to solicit attention. If anything he was too grave and collected for a 7 month old puppy! We spent some time outside in the quiet in a quiet area so he could relax, and I gave him more attention and treats.
We went back in and walked towards the other doors again. I really like the fact that seeing Knightley brings a smile to peoples faces. Having a rather cute dog in a place where they just don't expect dogs is just something that seems to make many people smile, and in this day and age, the power to make perfect strangers smile is pretty awesome! We found a seat near the doors, as we were waiting for the hubby, and I had Knightley go into a down against the seat (assistance/service dog etiquette is to have the dog under any seats, but this seat was solid, so Knightley couldn't get under it). He just watched people as they went past, and for every person that went past, I gave him a few treats, once again creating that positive association that I talked about previously. It was a fantastic outing, and once the hubby came back, we all three walked together nice and calmly back out.
We've been doing quite a bit of work on loose leash - more than before. I've been using the Comfort Trainer halter in public and for some of our walks, but I am starting to phase it out some. Our loose leash is great inside, is pretty solid on the road, but once grass and smells come into it, and things like birds...... he loses the idea of keeping the leash loose and following me. I am wondering whether to get either the trainer I talked to many months back, or perhaps a different one which I kind of prefer the look of to help us... as getting this solid is very difficult, made harder by my problems with not being able to treat/click etc easily as one hand has to do everything as my other hand has my crutch. Sigh, we'll see.
Anyway, the hubby leaves for England tomorrow, and we have quite a few things to do to prepare this morning, as well as a blood test for myself. I think Knightley is going to be back sleeping on the bed with me while hubby is gone as 3.5 weeks is a long time..... we've only been separated once since hubby moved to Australia, and that was for 4 days for a conference. I think Knightley will miss the hubby too, but will be happy with the sleeping arrangements. Oh well, time to get moving and do what needs to be done today. That's all for now!
Oz Working Dogs - Assistance & Working Dog Equipment
For assistance/service dog equipment, as well as guide, therapy, detection, search & rescue, police and dogs in training equipment check out my website http://www.ozworkingdogs.com.au - I make and sell vests, capes, belly bands, harnesses, handles and more... and will post to the world!